Controversial comment angers Ryerson students

Stephen Poloz, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, made comments in support of unpaid internships.

Stephen Poloz, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, made comments in support of unpaid internships. (Courtesy Bank of Canada, Flickr)

In the midst of the seemingly endless unpaid internship debate, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has angered university students with his comments.

Poloz told the CBC that university graduates should “acquire more experience through unpaid internships or volunteering until the country’s hobbled job market picks up.”

Poloz believes the job market will improve over the next two years.

The reality is, due to a number of factors, many students are graduating with crippling student debt while struggling to pay for overall living costs.

Hannah Smyth, a fourth-year Ryerson social work student, says that juggling two jobs can take a huge toll. “(It) can raise issues such as personal wellbeing and mental health-related concerns,” she says. “(Poloz’) statement doesn’t take into account the socioeconomic reality of a large percentage of post-secondary students today.”

Pnina Alon-Shenker, assistant professor in the department of law and business, says Poloz’ statement is misleading because unpaid internships are only legal in Canada under limited circumstances.

In Ontario, the law allows for an unpaid internship when it’s part of a university or college co-op program, or when the internship meets several strict conditions.

Therefore, many unpaid internships offered are illegal and shouldn’t be encouraged, says Alon-Shenker.

She believes the real problem is labour exploitation and lack of job creation. “There are not enough jobs for young people, and those available are often offered for no pay or very low pay — with almost no legal protection.”

Samantha Tablada, fourth-year fashion communication student, agrees that internships are important — especially to succeed in a competitive career like fashion. But she says Poloz shouldn’t only target a specific group to work unpaid jobs.

“Segregating us as a group is wrong and preferential,” says Tablada.


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